Britain’s restaurants, pubs and bars recorded solid sales in the first few days of full inside service.
Those are the headlines from CGA’s exclusive analysis of trading from Monday to Thursday (10 to 17 May). CGA’s Recovery Tracker shows that average like-for-like sales were virtually flat (up 0.2%) on the equivalent period in April 2019, with 11% growth in food sales balanced by a 9% drop in drinks.
Licensed premises bounced back strongly on Monday, with total sales up 29% from the same day in 2019. However, they soon dropped back, falling 2% on Tuesday, rising just 1% on Wednesday and slipping 17% on Thursday. The negative figures reflect generally poor weather across the country this week, and are a reminder that venues remain severely restricted in their trading.
CGA’s breakdown of drinks sales indicates that many consumers were celebrating the return of inside service with cocktails, sales of which rocketed by 123% over the four days. Spirits were down 4%, while the wine and champagne (down 8%) and soft drinks (down 12%) categories all performed reasonably, driven by food-led occasions—but it was a tougher week for beer and cider (down 19%). Draught beer gained 2% of market share over packaged beer, and sales of world lager were up 1%. It confirms recent signs that consumers are seeking drinks that have been difficult to recreate at home, like poured pints and cocktails, and that many are keen to treat themselves to premium options on their return.
It has been a big relief this week to get back to full inside trading across Britain, and these figures show a reasonable start,” says Jonathan Jones, CGA’s managing director, UK and Ireland. “But with many sites still to open and like-for-like sales essentially flat, there is clearly still a very long way to go before sales and profits return to pre-pandemic levels. Pent-up demand, and hopefully some brighter weather, give us optimism that trading will pick up as consumers settle into new habits. But COVID-19 has taken a massive toll on hospitality, and sustained support is going to be needed to help reignite a sector that is absolutely crucial to the UK’s economic recovery in 2021 and beyond.”
The first week of inside trading follows a slow final week of outdoor-only service in England and Wales, and limited indoor service in Scotland. In the week from Saturday 8 May, average drinks sales were down 58% on the same week in 2019, with pubs (down 55%) faring slightly better than restaurants (down 69%) and bars (68%).
The fifth and final week of outside trading was the worst since hospitality’s return on 12 April, and the fourth week in a row that the comparison with 2019 widened. CGA’s weekly Drinks Recovery Tracker reports have shown a strong initial return amid sunshine and a solid second week, followed by a difficult third week and fourth week as the weather turned.
Outside trading was inevitably tied very closely to the unpredictable British spring weather,” says Jonathan Jones. “After a strong first fortnight drinks sales faded over the next three weeks, though it was still a welcome return to business for many pubs. As 17 May got closer, many consumers were obviously choosing to wait a few more days until they could get back inside, rather than brave the elements.”